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While it is encouraging to learn that the challenge and opportunity provided by 700,000 square feet of vacant laboratory space near the Avery Point campus in Groton has the attention of the administration, the vague outline for reuse provided Monday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is not concrete enough to either get excited about or pass judgment on.
In meeting with The Day's editorial board, the governor did indicate that possibilities for reusing the former Groton laboratories have moved past the concept stage into more tangible planning. Yet it is impossible to say how far along the path from theory to reality has progress moved.
Gov. Malloy referenced the vacant building when questioned about local disappointment that the Avery Point campus is not included in the $1.5 billion "Next Generation Initiative" being pursued by the governor and University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst. The intent of that 10-year project is to expand and improve the science, engineering and technology curricula at the university.
The university and administration have other ideas for Avery Point, said the governor.
"Based on my discussions with President Herbst," said Gov. Malloy, "there is … (an) expanded future for Avery Point … likely to be connected to reuse of Pfizer and laboratory space there. And when that's ready to go we'll move forward with it."
Pfizer abandoned the building as it reduced staffing, concentrating research in its more up-to-date laboratories in Groton. Pfizer officials have talked of demolishing the structure if no reuse is found. The governor raised a concept discussed by business leaders and planners locally - reusing the facility to house and develop small bioscience startup businesses, including some operated by former Pfizer researchers.
Since it is not in the political interests of the governor to raise false hopes, our expectation is that that administration has something in the works. "We are closing in," said Gov. Malloy. "I am hopeful." But how much state investment would repurposing the property require? What would be UConn's connection? And would the property become part of Avery Point and so not taxable by Groton city and town?
Our interest is piqued. We await further developments.